A Tale of Two T-shirts

(The ba­sic white cot­ton tee vs. the C2C-gold-cer­ti­fied cot­ton tee)

Fashion (Canada) - - The Draw Sustainability Reboot - By Sarah Jay


It’s fash­ion’s ul­ti­mate sta­ple: sim­ple, crisp and clean. It’s worn to bed or to the Os­cars, over­sized or as an un­der­shirt. We con­sume it by the three-pack and dis­pose of it at the first sign of sweat stains. 5 REA­SONS WHY THIS IS A BAD THING: 1. Cur­rently, over two bil­lion cot­ton T-shirts are sold world­wide ev­ery year. 2. Cot­ton is the world’s most wa­ter-in­ten­sive crop: 2,700 litres of wa­ter are re­quired to make a sin­gle tee. 3. Cot­ton is also the world’s most her­bi­cide­and pes­ti­cide-in­ten­sive crop, us­ing 24 per cent of the world’s in­sec­ti­cides and 11 per cent of the world’s pes­ti­cides an­nu­ally. 4. Many ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties world­wide rely on hand­pick­ing cot­ton, which is dirty, toxic work mostly done by women who are paid ac­cord­ing to the weight of cot­ton they can carry in a day. 5. Eighty-five per cent of cloth­ing ends up in a land­fill, and much of this waste con­sists of the ever-pop­u­lar cot­ton tee. Once a T-shirt lands in the land­fill, it can take years for it to break down. Cot­ton and all-nat­u­ral fi­bres also re­lease meth­ane—a lead­ing cause of cli­mate change—as they break down.


In part­ner­ship with Fash­ion for Good, C2Ccer­ti­fied re­tailer C&A re­leased the first gold-level C2C-cer­ti­fied T-shirt, which they say makes it “the most sus­tain­able T-shirt in the world.” 5 REA­SONS WHY THIS IS A GOOD THING: 1. It’s made from 100 per cent Global Or­ganic Tex­tile Stan­dard (GOTS)-cer­ti­fied or­ganic cot­ton. (Or­ganic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion means no toxic chem­i­cals.) 2. The dyes used to cre­ate the 17 colours for the T-shirts were as­sessed to make sure they are good for hu­mans and the en­vi­ron­ment. 3. To avoid us­ing polyester tags, the la­bel is printed onto the fab­ric, and the gar­ment is stitched with cer­ti­fied-or­ganic thread. 4. The shirts are man­u­fac­tured at Prat­i­bha Syn­tex, a Fair Trade-cer­ti­fied fa­cil­ity in Cen­tral In­dia, and Cot­ton Blos­som, a green-pow­ered fac­tory in the South In­dian state of Tamil Nadu. Both fac­to­ries have demon­strated their com­mit­ment to work­ers’ rights as well as en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able man­u­fac­tur­ing. 5. About 12 weeks af­ter the shirt is com­posted in your back­yard, it turns into healthy soil.


Cloth­ing is typ­i­cally pro­duced along a lin­ear, or cra­dle-to-grave, model. It’s cre­ated, used and then dis­posed of. But the cra­dle-to-cra­dle (C2C) method­ol­ogy ap­proaches de­sign with end of life in mind. Waste re­turns as raw ma­te­rial or fuel or is elim­i­nated al­to­gether in a closed-loop or cir­cu­lar sys­tem. It’s the rein­car­na­tion of fash­ion. As Wil­liam McDonough and Michael Braun­gart, the vi­sion­ar­ies be­hind the C2C method­ol­ogy, point out: “Tra­di­tional re­cy­cling tries to force ma­te­ri­als into more life­times than they were de­signed for—a com­pli­cated and messy con­ver­sion and one that ex­pends en­ergy and re­sources. [...] If the process is truly to save money and ma­te­ri­als, prod­ucts must be de­signed from the very be­gin­ning to be re­cy­cled or even ‘up­cy­cled.’” C2C-cer­ti­fied prod­ucts are eval­u­ated for ma­te­rial health, ma­te­rial re­uti­liza­tion, re­new­able en­ergy use, wa­ter stew­ard­ship and so­cial fair­ness. Prod­uct cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is awarded at five lev­els—ba­sic, bronze, sil­ver, gold and plat­inum—to en­cour­age on­go­ing im­prove­ments in de­sign.

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